First off, a shout out to Eva B, for the polite reminder that I haven't done a blog in about a month. Thanks!
Anyway, I had started a couple blogs the last few weeks but obviously they never came to light for others to see. I would get distracted and then that was it for them. I really am not a fan of starting one, dropping it for a few days and then re-visiting. In most cases, I pretty much end up redoing the whole thing.
So, I blogged about my birthday weekend. A couple weeks ago I turned 48. I stayed up the night coming into my birthday, toasted my turning another year older and here I am in my waking moments of my 48th year. Angie must think I'm a gem in the morning, eh?
I reflected on some of the past awesome animal birthday weekend adventures Angie and I got into. She sure surprised me a few times over the years. One of my most memorable was us having some alone time at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre. Yes, that is me next to an Eastern Grey Wolf.
I had no plans this time around. All I knew is that I wasn't going to work on my birthday, I never do. Someone asked me what I was going to do. I said "not much". They told me I should be glad I am seeing 48 because of that accident I had back in July could have played out much differently, meaning I could have ended up dead. I agree it could have been far worse, but it wasn't, so why even think about it in such a way months later? I don't dwell on the past even though I have scars to remind me of it daily.
My birthday this year was not anything out of the ordinary but it was a nice day with Angie and the animals. The weather was great. An Opossum came to visit which is a species I've not seen a lot of this year. He found the apple core I tossed into the yard.
A Raccoon also made an appearance.
Topper was here the morning of.
All my Pigeon pals came to visit. Well, all but Pierre. I was not expecting him that morning but certainly would have been more than pleasantly surprised if he did show up. Two months now since I last saw him. I still look out for him every day. But I have others in the flock to help along and look out for the best I can. Some mornings they can be a little demanding and a pain in the a$$, often having me not enjoy that first cup of coffee like I want to; but really I wouldn't trade it all in for anything.
Jersey has a lot of trust in me after almost 1 year of visiting.
We also visited The Owl Foundation for their annual open house. We missed last year's because of the ridiculously high humidity. So it was nice to go for a walk about the grounds again and see some old friends.
Saying "hello" to Big Bird, a Great Gray Owl, a very sleepy Owl I might add.
Here's a few of the Owls we saw during our tour of the grounds.
Young Snowy Owl
Then the next blog I had started working on but did not finish.
September 27th marked my third anniversary as an official volunteer with Toronto Wildlife. What a ride it has been. No year has been a repeat of the previous.
I've met a lot of wonderful people because of volunteering.
I keep a journal of all my goings on with the centre, be it bringing an animal in, taking some out for release, or the handful of grocery runs I have done. It's just for me, like a diary, and whenever I happen to look through the pages, some things are still quite vivid to this day while others have me wondering WTF? Rough numbers are I'm nearing 100 drives through the 3 years now. In my head, that really doesn't seem like a whole lot. I've brought in about 50 birds and animals. I have released 257 birds as of my anniversary date, most being migratory birds in the Autumn of each year. This is not bragging by any means. It's an interesting number. That's a lot of birds who were successfully rehabilitated after window collisions and other reasons for coming in. I'd like to add that there are far many more birds who make it out, released by staff and other volunteers. I'm not the only one who has had the pleasure of this task. So, Toronto Wildlife sure helps out a LOT of migratory birds every year! Big shout out to FLAP who finds many of them on our city streets.
I don't share much about my goings on these days. The releases are wonderful to do. Seeing all these birds go back to the wild world is great! But how often do people on social media need to see this? Once in a while, as a reminder that this is still happening in my life seems to be enough. I never want to come off as a braggart. Then the animals that come in, sometimes I know the background story and sometimes they aren't good stories. Well, any animal that needs help isn't a good story. Some injuries are light and treatable. Some, a humane ending to their suffering is the only thing for them. How many people want to tune into my social media pages and read about these things? On occasion, perhaps, but not steadily. There are varying opinions on wildlife rehab. I've had a few people say some pretty horrible things to me when it came to helping a Pigeon or a Goose, a Raccoon or a Skunk. "Waste of time and resources. Pests that should be exterminated." One guy said such things to me right outside the doors of TWC. His wife and kids were in the car with him, listening to the unkind things he said about helping an unwell Pigeon I had in a box. We live in a huge city, green spaces are condensed, and the animals are adapting to living among us... we need to do that as well, living among them. Many of the stories of the sick, injured or orphaned wildlife in our city is due to humans. Someone accidentally, or *gasp* purposely did something to an animal, and there is a place to help these poor beings after the fact.
Look at Rehab, our backyard visiting Pigeon pal. He got into some man made substance left out there somewhere in our area. Blog here. That should never have happened. Thank goodness for Toronto Wildlife helping him. He looks fantastic. And he is a very happy bird! Look at him in this photo. You can't tell me he's not loving life in the wild again.
Now I will post this photo of a Hawk release I did. That's a Cooper's Hawk going back home. As some question me looking out for the young Peregrine Falcons in June at Islington/Bloor, and loving my Pigeon friends at home. How can I help a Hawk species that loves to eat Pigeons? Simple. I don't discriminate. Most of my friends get it. That is why they are my friends.
For anyone interested, here is a list of the birds I have released.
Black & White
Great Horned Owl
Eastern Screech Owl
If you know your birds, you can probably tell which species most likely came from FLAP. If you ever want to send them some $ LOVE $, click here. Or if Toronto Wildlife warms your heart, here is their link, it does not have to be money, check out their wish list.
Now before I end this blog, I'd like to touch upon these releases just a little bit more. It's not simply picking up the birds and taking them to your backyard or favorite park. Autumn migratory birds need to get down to the shores of Lake Ontario, west of Toronto. Year round resident birds like Cardinals and Pigeons must go back to where they came from, that is their home (territory). Waxwings and Goldfinches normally have to go with a flock, since they are nomadic birds. Often it is young Waxwings and Goldfinches we work hard at to find them a flock to join. We also put the word out to friends to keep their eyes and ears open for these species when out. Ebird can be of help in finding these birds.
I recently had a moment of panic when I found a flock of approximately 10 Goldfinches, and they were in this area for over a week already. The next morning I arrive with a young one to join them and found myself struggling to find them again. I jumped right into worry mode, playing out worst case scenarios, which isn't always good, but in another is helpful that I am two steps ahead and already working on plan B. I did find the flock after some hard searching and all the worry quickly disappeared. These are wild birds, they don't follow any rules. You just never know what can happen in a short span of time. It's better to have as recent of a species sighting and go with it than driving around with the bird, hitting various spots looking/hoping for a flock.
When the shout out comes for a bird release, and I can do it, I will. I don't ask how many. I don't ask what the species are. When I hit my personal mini-milestones, I do have an interest in the species I am driving, but that's it. With the migrants, sometimes I know the species before leaving the centre, other times I try to ID them as they go free.
Like, here is my 250th bird release. A Black-throated Blue Warbler. He rocketed out of the paper bag and disappeared into the foliage of a nearby tree. I relocated him for a photo after the others were free that I brought down to the park.
I list the species I have released but I don't hope and wish for a new species to add. I've driven the miles for one bird, I've driven the miles for ten birds. It's all the same. Sure the more the merrier, but whatever. An average release road trip is close to 50 kms. That's going to the centre, then driving the birds to the lake. This is usually an hour out of my day. Suddenly the idea isn't as appealing to some. Someone once squawked at me for taking so many of these drives on in the fall until they learned what really goes on. Their exact words "I can't do that!" reason being because of travel and time to go to these west of the city lake parks.
This may deter some too... I was releasing some birds in September at a certain park that has had a reputation for being a cruise area for gay men. There was a big bust at the park in the fall of 2016 and over 80 men faced charges or got a warning along with some embarrassment because of their escapades. The park seemed to be quiet and void of the antics of these men since. I drove some birds to the park for release and as I let a Thrush free, I saw a man walking towards me from a side path. He was about 20 ft away when he stopped. He looked at me and then flashed me his "package" by pulling his shorts up on the one leg and to the side. I recon the look on my face was enough for him to realize I was not interested and he quickly disappeared. I said it before and I will say it again, "I like seeing Woodcocks, not man-cocks!" This is not a homophobic statement. What two consenting adults do behind closed doors is their business. Please keep it out of the public parks. No matter what your sexual preference is. The litter of condom wrappers and used condoms left on the ground is disgusting.
Another deterrent is the never knowing what you may run into when driving. Shit happens on the roads all the time! Construction which is never ending, then there's the accidents. This is from a recent drive I did for an injured Gull. It took me over 20 minutes to get past this one vehicle accident where the person drove into the centre light post at the intersection of Islington and Dixon.
I don't have the luxury of ample free time, having a work schedule to stick to, and when a negative surprise like this occurs. Argh!
I always breathe a sigh of relief when I finally get to the centre. Seeing the rescue van is like the light at the end of the tunnel.
Or on the other end, getting a little bird back on track, helping it get a 2nd chance at a wild life is worth whatever hiccups I faced during the drive.
Black-throated Green Warbler making some eye contact with me after being released. Moments later he flew to a nearby tree and went back to business as usual, being a bouncy little bird, catching all the insects he could.
Helping any animal is great for them, and I've probably mentioned this before... it's great for me too. It does wonders for my soul. For a moment I forget about life struggles, work does not exist, nor anything terrible making the current headlines in the news.
Well, time to end this. Be back soon with who knows what about. As long as it's about something furry or feathered, slimy or scaly. Right?
Here's my wife Angie's latest blog about her September if anyone is interested.